Friday, February 18, 2011

A Day at School in Barra de Navidad

In most routines, Friday means punch-in at work or head-off to school. In Barra de Navidad, Mexico that routine remains, but it could be labeled in other terms.

A fishing panga sweeps by our boat in the lagoon and ferries us to a wooden wharf that sticks out from a sandy inlet with several more wharfs that jetty out for fishermen and their morning catches. We shuffle down the planks with a surfboard, boogie board, and beach gear. The wharf leads to a narrow, stone street to the right, with small shops and restaurants. Straight ahead on the other side of the narrow, stone street is the Pacific Ocean and the beach front to Melaque Bay a couple miles to the north. The jetty for the harbor is to the left, and it catches a pretty good “right” when the waves are up.

Water taxi dock


View of docks and pangas that line the shore in Barra

This is our recess from school – home school – where Chandler reported on Lewis and Clark: why Thomas Jefferson chose Lewis to explore the continent; what he would do had they not returned; how they met 50 tribes and recorded 250 common words from each tribe. Then she reported on long division; the Mother Daughter Book Club book she is reading; and displayed a horse and its foal modeled in salvaged clay found around the hatches when they were sealed to keep water out during hurricane season. And she had helped Dad filter three jerry cans of diesel this morning. 
Henry reported on doing a couple pages of multiplication. He drew a reef scene with enlarged examples of his favorite kinds of fish: yellow tail, dorado, and pargo. He read a chapter in Magic Tree House, copied a page to practice writing, and reported on jelly fish as follows:
“The long tentacles sting. The short one’s don’t. The long one’s hang down from the purplish part in the center of the body. Jelly fish are born at the bottom of the sea and eat broken up crab meat…”
“Wait a minute”, Dad interjects. “Can you show me where you found this last bit of information in the fish book?”
Henry replies, “They didn’t have jelly fish in the book. I’m reporting from what I found out by catching them yesterday in my net. Remember that black hard thing that looked like a baby crab claw? Well, I pulled that out of a jelly fish. So he must have eaten a crab claw, and he must have been on the bottom of the sea to get the claw.”
I blink and nod. Henry continues. “Jellies are 90% water, and turtles and sunfish eat them. Sunfish can get up to 700 pounds, and they have the most bones of any fish…” We all sit back and listen to this young fisherman free-spout about fish and facts he’s picked up at docks and bait tanks while the deft, sunburned hands of local fishermen cleaned the day’s catches. Henry is reciting from his own book at this point. 

During beach recess, we boogie board and body surf the shore breakers. A friend from another boat joins us. Henry wants to dig a sand tunnel big enough to pull the kids through. I reply, “We’d need a shovel and it’ll probably collapse.” He says, “No Dad. Tristen said his dad did it once.”
“Without a shovel?”
“Yeah. Just with his bare hands.” 
So, game on, I’m digging and in twenty minutes, sure enough there stands a sand tunnel dug with hands, big enough to pull kids through and not collapse. Just another kid fact and lesson for Dad. 

Going under

Made it!

Carolyne, Maia, and Chandler after surfing and boogie boarding

At the end of the day, for 40 cents there are indoor, fresh water showers heated by whatever sun beats on a large black barrel on the roof. Then, a walk down the wharf and a wait for the zooming panga that will whisk us back to the boat. And as we walk down the wharf, I look down at Henry with his boogie board, a leash draped over his shoulder; Chandler in her swim suit, pony tail and bag of shower supplies, and I think, “Friday… in Mexico… on a boat… mass trans via a panga… jelly fish, diesel cans, sand tunnels, gritty showers… its all schooling.”

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